Blog post- Number the Stars

 Number the Stars, written by Lois Lowry, is a young adult novel that encompasses the themes of bravery, patriotism, courage and self-sacrifice. This novel is dense in that it contains concepts young adults have typically not yet been exposed to. The novel takes place in Copenhagen, Germany during the time of WWII, in which the German soldiers are pushing the Jews out of their land. Ten-year-old Annemarie and her Jewish best friend, Ellen, face a series of events during the worst time in their countries history. Annemarie discovers the kind of person she is when she helps her best friend escape getting caught through the process of the German soldiers removing all Jews from the area. A repeated quote throughout the novel is said by Annemarie’s mother, “friends will take care of them. That’s what friends do” (Lowey 22). This novel encompasses the lives of young adults living in Germany during the most traumatic historical event to exist. For young adults, this novel can be rewarding to read. The theme of bravery holds constant through out with Annemarie sacrificing her life for her best friend and completing brave tasks that ultimately save her family. The idea that Annemarie is the main heroic character is often not seen in young adult literature as well. Typically, it’s a male figure and that heroic figure is usually white. Annemarie is afraid she won’t see her best friend ever again, yet Uncle Henrik reminds her “you will see Ellen again, little one. You saved her life, after all. Someday you will find her again. Someday the war will end. All wars do” (Lowry 108). Uncle Henrik is wise in his experience with wars and knows the detriments first-hand, yet he is strong enough to tell young Annemarie that she will find her find again, and relay a hope in her that is absent from his own mind.

For a young adult reading this all over the world, it is a powerful and uplifting novel about resistance and the value of being a good friend—a concept that all young adults need. It is important to understand the role of young adults in history and how that has shaped the roles in lives surrounding. Annemarie’s character sets an example for all YA reading this novel, an example that is reassuring in literature. Number the Stars gives a clear indication of the dark history that our world has faced and the effects this horrific time in history has had on not only Germany but for everyone who experienced the pressure, the loss, and the despair all over. We see the reality of history within this novel and we can only feel grateful that this has not been repeated. Young adults can not only get a history lesson from WWII and the Holocaust, but they can gain insight on how these actions affected children their own age and create a perspective on children all over the world that are suffering.

Works Cited

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Dell Yearling, 1998. First published: February 9, 1989.

Victoria- Book Review

The novel Victoria, written by Silvana Goldemberg, captures the life of a teenage girl struggling after the loss of both her parents, one from domestic violence and one from abandonment. Victoria undergoes a series of traumatic events that develop her as a character in this novel. Losing both parents to domestic violence and abandonment, Victoria has already seen it all. Experiencing that sort of loss at such a young age can be detrimental to one’s mental health, especially a fragile teenager trying to make sense of the world around them. Victoria has to take her younger brother under her arm after all of the trauma they have both experienced. Victoria’s world takes a turn when she has to drop out of school and become, essentially, “enslaved” into her Aunt and Uncles home.

This novel sparked an interest as the topic of domestic violence has not yet been discussed in our adolescent literature class. This topic must be introduced to young adults so that they are aware, and not shut out to what is a constant in today’s society. Further, there are several young adults experiencing violence or seeing it first-hand placed upon a loved one. It is crucial to incorporate this topic in YA literature to represent those several who have dealt with such a horrific issue. How are students supposed to grow in their learning and knowledge of the dangers out there if they are not exposed to such material?

This novel was written in South America, and takes place specifically in Parana, Argentina. You can only imagine this novel is dense and provokes a type of thinking in young adults that they may have not experienced yet. This can be both an advantage and also a disadvantage. Young adults can get introduced to this sort of disturbing content and the novel can relate with them on a personal level, giving them their own perspective and reshaping this perspective. This novel can help young adults not feel alone, and help them to understand their problems that lie within their own homes are being experienced by others in a similar way. Although this novel does a very good job of introducing these topics of domestic violence and street violence, I often got the sense that there were some scenes in which did not portray the actual feelings behind the violence. I often found that some scenes were not realistic, in that most people she meets on the streets do not challenge her thinking and do not provide the aspect of mistreatment within the streets. It almost makes the reader feel as if Victoria belongs in the streets which is sometimes not an ideal concept for a YA novel. However, the idea that Victoria pushes through each and every obstacle she faces is a strong concept to incorporate in to YA literature. We see her character progress throughout the novel as well as Victoria is the back bone for her little brothers, “I miss you so much, Mama. I don’t want to turn fifteen without you. I can’t. and the twins—poor little ones. Everyday they ask for you” (Goldemberg 56). With this, we get a sense of Victoria’s character. She is caring, diligent and holds an emotional attachment to her mother. This relationship is important and contributes to her overall character. We create a sense of remorse for Victoria early on. She might sometimes wish she was as young as the twins so that maybe she could be less aware of her world, crumbling into a million pieces right in front of her eyes.

Victoria’s experience on the streets continues to help her grow as a character. She realizes one, that she can fend for herself and create a life of her own, and second that she can befriend just about anyone on the streets. After Victoria’s traumatic experience of losing both her parents, she is then encountered by another situation in which just about puts her over the edge, making her leave her Aunt and Uncles and become homeless, because what else is there to do at this point? Victoria undergoes domestic violence when her uncle tries to make a sexual move on her. This is essentially her breaking point, and she is now off on her own. This side of Victoria’s character can also become an advantage and disadvantage to YA literature. Victoria searching for a life of her own and being able to fend for herself is a strong concept within YA literature; however, making the decision to create this next chapter in her life on the streets might not be the strongest concept for a YA to be exposed to. However, it does go to show that this world may not be such a scary place after all.

This novel has several concepts within that are advantageous to YA literature across the globe. I find that this novel may be more beneficial for YA who live in Argentina as living on the streets is more of a prevalent action within their own culture. However, I find that students who can get themselves exposed to this lifestyle have a better understanding of the lives lived in other countries and can start to begin an appreciation for their own. Goldemberg simply created this beautiful for work for, “the children who suffer from violence and poverty. For the justice and dignity they deserve.” This novel was created for those children who are working countless hours on the streets, so that they can find within them a source of hope and strength.

Works Cited

Goldemberg, Silvana. Victoria. Tradewind Books. February, 2014.


Blog Post: Japanese Literary Rewards (Naoki Prize and Akutagawa Prize)

In Japan, there are many literary awards ranging from the Nakahara Chuya Prize to the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers. One notable award is the Naoki Prize (n.d.). The Naoki Prize, also known as the Naoki Sanjūgo Shō, is awarded twice every year to the most renowned Japanese novelist (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2011). I think that it is great that this is a biannual award because it allows more than one influential Japanese author to win this award. This award is interesting because anyone who was born in Japan can win this award regardless of their race. There have been a select few authors of mixed nationalities like Korean-Japanese and Chinese-Japanese authors who have won this award. The Naoki Prize and the Akutagawa prize are very similar prizes and are highly sought after because only a little over 100 authors have won these prizes thus far. One of the differences between The Naoki Prize and the Akutagawa Prize is that the Akutagawa Prize winners get a valuable pocket watch. This watch can be worth close to $10,000 (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006). Usually, the winners of the Naoki Prize and the Akutagawa Prize produce novels intended for younger audiences, but there are plenty acceptions especially in the early years of these awards. The winners of the 160th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes were announced on January 16 this year (Erika, 2019). The winners of this year’s awards were Takehiro Ueda and Ryohei Machida winning the Akutagawa Prize and Junjo Shindo was one of the recipients of the Naoki Prize. They all hade outbreak novels and all of their novels had realistic settings but were not true stories. This picture shows Junjo Shindo, Ryohei Machida, Takehiro holding their books at the reception that was held for the nominees for the Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes (Erika, 2019). This photo was originally from Japan Times.

The Website Japan Times has had a significant amount of articles about authors winning prizes like these. I found that they also covered the winners from 2012. The winners from 2012 were Rin Hamuro, Shinya Tanaka and To Enjo. Here is a picture of that.

The ceremony of presenting these awards are usually held in Tokyo, but these awards date back to 1935 so I could not find the information on where these ceremonies were held back in the day. There was was a period from 1945 to 1949 where these awards were not presented. This was probably due to the aftermath of World War II. All in all, it is intriguing to look at other cultures literary awards when compared to the United States. To me, it seems as if literary rewards are more valued in Japan than they are in the United States. Here is a link to where you can find more books and authors who have won the Naoki Prize, but it is not guaranteed that these novels will be translated into English.

Works Cited:

(n.d.). Three novelists picked for Japan’s Akutagawa and Naoki literary awards. Retrieved from

(n.d.). Retrieved from

Britannica, T. E. (2006, September 28). Akutagawa Prize. Retrieved from

Britannica, T. E. (2011, March 08). Naoki Prize. Retrieved from

Fukue, N. (n.d.). Literary awards run spectrum. Retrieved from

E. (2019, January 17). Winners of 160th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes. Retrieved from

Naoki Prize 直木三十五賞 Winners. (n.d.). Retrieved from



Blog Post: Stress-Filled Adolescence Through the Lens of Australian YA Literature

I read the book The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil which follows two graduating high school seniors as they prepare for the future. Though the two protagonists (Josh and Sophia) are different in almost every way, they both are under immense pressure to prepare for the future and so are their peers. For instance, one of the main sources of conflict for Sophia and her best friend Elsie is the topic of college. Sophia is a genius and loves math so college is the natural progression for her academically, but Elsie wants to go to college in the United States so Sophia, fearing the loss of her best friend, freaks out every time college comes up in conversation. Josh, on the other hand, doesn’t know what he wants to do with the rest of his life but is under extreme pressure from his dad to decide what to study when he ends up at the inevitable college of choice: Melbourne University. Josh responds by acting as if the future will decide itself and he lives in the moment (Keil, 2018). While Elsie obsessively plans her collegiate path, Sophia freaks out over the prospect of change, and Josh avoids growing up, all these students have big, life-altering choices to make before they graduate.

In the article I read by Russell D. Romeo, “boys and girls in later stages of adolescence (15-17 years old) display greater stress-induced Cortisol levels compared with individuals in late childhood or earlier stages of adolescence (9-13 years old),” (2013) it seems that adolescents in the age range of the characters in my book are affected psychologically by stress more than in any other stage. I think it is, in part, due to the upcoming decisions they often have to make: find the best college, get hired and start making money, provide for yourself for the first time, etc.. Preparing for the future is a big deal in our modern, connected world and the added stressors of a best friend leaving to go to college across the world makes these decisions even more stressful. As I’m sure it is present in American adolescent literature, this Australian book demonstrates that this is an important topic with which many adolescents can identify no matter what social class or ethnic background from which they come. After all, in Keil’s book, Josh is white, Sophia is African-American, and Elsie is Indian. She uses a diverse cast to demonstrate the power all the more of stressful adolescent years.

Works Cited

  1. Keil, M. (2017). The Secret Science of Magic. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.
  2. Romeo, R. D. (2013). The Teenage Brain: The Stress Response and the Adolescent Brain. APS,22(2), 140-145. Retrieved from 9ef31f4680e1a35fc815991a835bd93f.

Book review

In Search of Happiness by Sonwabiso Ngcoqa, is a novel centered around Nana a fifteen-year-old girl who is moving from her small village  Mpozisa to the city Eastern Cape and finds love with Agnes. Set in Africa this novel is a coming of age story about hardships, embracing your sexuality.

The themes of sexuality in a South African novel is groundbreaking. Unlike in our western cultures, sexuality is not something that is talked about and portrayed in novels for young people. In the Novel, Nana is portrayed as a normal teenager, with friends and family that care about her. As a fifteen-year-old, she is going through normal High school issues such as love and fitting in. The novel is told from Nana’s point of view looking back on her life and all she has grown since she moved to the city.

Throughout the novel we see Nana struggle with becoming a woman and not fitting in with the boys anymore. There is a scene at the beginning of the novel when Nana speaks about her changing body and how she wishes her breast do not grow larger so she can still play with the boys. This is a subtle scene in the novel yet is a little window into what Nana is thinking about in her head. I find this underlying theme of girls becoming sexualized in the novel, it seems to me that this is a part of life for girls like Nana at a young age feeling vulnerability and danger in being sexualized. Once they become women they have to fear rape, this can be demonstrated when Nana is explaining her morning routine and drops a subtle hint “it is not safe for us girls to walk to the pit latrine toilet in the far corner of the yard”(17). In addition to fear of rape, there are several sexist comments made towards Nana as she goes through her journey demonstrating that like other fifteen-year-old girls she struggles with proving herself to others.

Sonwabiso Ngcoqa writing allows the viewer to view Nana and Agnes same-sex relationship as normal and typical of a traditional relationship as it should be. One of the ways that Sonwabiso conveys this is including Asanda and her boyfriend’s relationship. Asanda is Nana’s sisters, the two relationships (Nana’s and Agnes and Asands and Sive) are compared to each other throughout the novel in an attempt to demonstrate the similarities in the love between the two pairs. In addition, the comparison demonstrates Nana’s intercity of being lesbian and her fear of her families reaction for example when her there is a loss in the family Sive griefs the death with the family while Nana says “I do not dare ask about Agens yet”(119). When Agens does show up to the family home to show her respects there is a wall that comes up between the two inferno of the family, keeping their love and connection to themselves.

There is a moment when Sonwabiso uses these two relationships to make a comment on societies view on same sex relationships, Nana plans to confront her older sister about questioning her relationship infant of the family “But I am ready to take it up with Asanda. Who is she to judge me and Agnes so harshly? Who is she to put her love for Sive above my love for Agnes?” (120). These questions are not just Nana confronting her older sister but Nana asking the world and society in entirety. Why is the sex of the people in love matter? Why does the love between a man and a women differ  from the love between two women or two men?

The Statement that this novel makes on south african society is very important unlike in western culture sexuality is not speaked about. This novel is now a window for young people to look through and look to for support and explanation about what they are feeling. Having resources for young people going through struggles is very important and when they are dealing with the harsh reality of not all people accepting them they need a resource to look towards for confidence. Throughout the year we have learned about the importance of the including a diverse group of characters in the Young Adolecen Literature genre and that the novels that are taught in school need not be representative of only the majority. Our society is becoming more and more media saturated we should take this opportunity to portray positive views all people not only so young people can see themselves represented in a wide variety of mediums but also to stop this large negative hate of people who are different. Hate is something that is taught and if our story portray acceptance of those who are different such as in In search of happiness by Sonwabiso Ngcoqa we will create a new generation of acceptance and positivity.

Work cited

Ngcoqa, Sonwabiso. In Searching of Happiness. Cover2Cover Books, 2014.

Blog post

Blog Post

I read the Academic journal English South African children’s literature

and the environment by E.R. Jenkins, this journal talks about the pretrial of the environment in South African Young Adult Literature and how it changed over time. The environment has always been part of the Literary world of South Africa the stories often make references to setting they are are in rely on nature to be part of the story. The first aspect of nature that the article tackles is the inclusion of hunting in literature, often demonstrating how over time the representation of hunting has changed and the negative societal views on hunting that comes with the twenty century can be seen in the novels of the time. The next aspect of nature spoke about in the journal is animals and their role on farms and the development of fan stay genre and animals being able to communicate with people. “a major genre from the early 1900s until the 1950s consisted of cosy fantasy stories for young children in which animals, birds, and insects

became little people”(6) this shift into a fantasy world demonstrates the South African connection within nature and how the creatures are treated with respect and understanding, showing a relationship between human and animal that’s not one of hunting. As time passed the environment of South Africa was experiencing devastating changes that are reversible literature started to reflect these changes. The article gives Thesen’s A deadly presence (1982) as an example of this shift, the novel tells a story about a character who is concerned about the environment fighting to maintain it. As reserves were starting to be formed to protect nature and its animals there was another shift in literary topics, Jenkins goes on to speak about influential environmentalist John MacKenzie and agreeing with is a conclusion that  “constructions of nature inevitably have a national or racial component”(8). This can clearly be applied to South Africa and is reflected in the literature. After the preserves were established there was a shift towards nationalism and the characters of YA literature started to look for their place in the country and establish a connection with the land. I think that this is a very important aspect of literature to look at, as society evolves as does the literature that goes with it. Characters and real people evolve together and this is because these characters and stories all come from a real person with real-life experiences. In looking at novels from the past and present viewers must understand the life of that time period to be able to relate to the character.

work cited

English South African Children’s Literature and the Environment. Nov. 2004, Accessed 22

     Apr. 2019.

Book Review: “Go” by Kazuki Kaneshrio

Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro is a young adult novel that was previously published by Kodansha in Japan in 2000 and then later republished in 2007 by the Kadokawa Corporation. This young adult novel was recently translated into English by Takami Nieda and published again by AmazonCrossing in 2018 so that it could be enjoyed by English readers. Kazuki Kaneshiro is of Korean descent and was born in Japan in the Saitama Prefecture which is a part of the city limits of Tokyo (Kosaka, 2018). One could say that Kazuki’s life is somewhat similar to the life of the protagonist of the book, Sugihara. Go was a major success in Japan and because of this success, Kazuki won the 2000 Naoki Prize (Kosaka, 2018). The Naoki Prize is one of the most well renowned literary awards that a Japanese writer can receive. Only the most outstanding, usually new and upcoming, authors are presented with this award. This award is presented twice a year and the recipients develop fame from it (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2011). Go was an outbreak novel for Kaneshiro and soon after her novel began to become popular as film adaptation was later made and it too also won awards. Although Go was Kaneshiro’s biggest hit he still continues to write novels, like his Speed series. Unfortunately, most of Kaneshiro’s other books have not been translated into English yet, and since none of his other novels are as famous as Go they are unlikely to be translated. Go is a heartfelt novel filled with romance as well as empathy and is told in the perspective of Sugihara, the protagonist. Sugihara has to learn how to make it in a country where his nationality is not the majority and deal with all the complications that come along with being “different”.

Go starts off with Sugihara explaining why he is different from everyone else. He and his family are what other residents of Japan call “Zainichi Chosenjin, a North Korean resident of Japan” (Kaneshiro, 1). Racism is prevalent in this novel, especially towards Sugihara. Sugihara being of high school age was summoned to attend high school which was scary for him because he was afraid of how the other students would treat him because of his race. While being shown around the high school a teacher presented a plan for Sugihara to fit in better. “the teacher in charge of incoming first-years asked me to “attend school under an alias to avoid any problems.” In other words, they wanted me to take a Japanese name and conceal my heritage, because going by my Korean name might get me bullied” (Kaneshiro, 10). In Asian cultures doing this is like being a traitor to your family and your nation. Even though he wanted to take pride in his name a keep it, he decided to take on the alias in order to have a more pleasant experience in high school. Even though Sugihara is bullied periodically throughout the novel by not just his peers in school but also by his teachers and other people in his community he never steps to their level and remains calm and respectful which ultimately works out for him. With his Japanese alias still intact, he begins to fall for a Japanese girl he met, Sakurai. Sakurai has mutual feelings for Sugihara and their relationship remains intact for a significant amount of the story. Sugihara’s life seems to be becoming better through a better experience throughout school, gaining friends and a better life at home. One of the significant friends that he gained in school was Jeong-il. Jeong-il was also considered a Zainichi Chosenjin because his father was a Zainichi and his mother was Japanese (Kaneshiro, 42). Jeong-il also had South Korean citizenship which made him unique living in Japan. Jeong-il was very smart, “By the start of fifth grade, Jeong-il was called “the brightest student since the school’s founding.” And because, in part, we were never in the same class until we entered junior high school, I (“the biggest dumb ass since the school’s founding”) hardly ever talked to him” (Kaneshiro, 42). Being of Korean descent and being the smartest in an otherwise all Japanese school is a big deal and gave Jeong-il some dominance over other students. If Sugihara would have become friends with Jeong-il sooner his life school life probably would have gone easier. All good things come to an end and Jeong-il was caught up in an altercation near the train station where he fought another guy technically over a girl. The guy that was fighting Jeong-il pulled out a butterfly knife and after some rustling ending up stabbing Jeong-il in the neck puncturing an artery. Jeong-il bled out before he was able to make to the hospital. This was heartbreaking for Sugihara, and this along with other unfortunate events cause Sugihara to reveal to Sakurai that he is in fact not Japanese but Korean. This was an issue because Sakurai’s father forbids her from going out with Korean or Chinese men because they have tainted blood. This caused a major disruption in their relationship and it was right before they were going to have intercourse. They took a break, and this gave Sugihara time to discover who he really is, but ultimately Sakurai came to the conclusion that she does not care about Sugihara’s race and only cares if he will jump for her and will look at her that way that she likes (Kaneshiro, 160).

Go is an influential novel and has many valuable aspects that young adult readers should learn about. Some of these aspects include discovering oneself, do not let your physical features define you if you do not want them to, and staying true to yourself through thick and thin. There was nothing too vulgar in this book that should cause children to not read Go and my opinion is that it this is a great book read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Works Cited:

Britannica, T. E. (2011, March 08). Naoki Prize. Retrieved from

Kaneshiro, Kazuki. Go: A Coming of Age Novel (p. iv). Amazon Crossing. Kindle Edition.

Kosaka, K. (2018, February 24). Kazuki Kaneshiro’s Go: Strength and irony in the face of prejudice. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from

Blog Post: Exploring Australian Young Adult Novels

The Children’s Book Council of Australia lists its winner for young adults ages 13-18 as the young adult novel Take Three Girls, by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Wood (2018). The story follows three girls, all of very different personalities and expected futures. Ady, Kate, and Clem originally do not know each other, however after hearing their stories individually, they are brought together through the Year 10 Wellness program, which aims to have them confront their problems, and teach them various life skills. Although all of the girl’s home lives and problems are very different, with them all being of different social classes, and their home life problems varying from alcoholism, to abuse, they are brought together when discovering they are all facing similar problems of extreme cyber-bullying. Throughout the story, the girls are brought together, while exploring topics of friendship, belonging, and identity (Coates, 2017).

One of the honorable mentions included in the award ceremony was Malley Boys, by Charlie Archbold, which is a yearlong story following fifteen-year-old Sandy, after his mother is killed in a car accident, while Chasing his brother Red, after he leaves home. Both boys feel responsible for the accident, and their father does his best to make up for the hole in their lives by applying a strong adult voice that they can latch on to. Although there is a lot of conflict between the brothers throughout the novel, they eventually understand each other’s similarities and differences, and start to move past their mother’s death. The novel explores themes of identity, differences, and possessions and has an overarching sense of grief throughout the plot (Archbold, 2017).

A second honorable mention for young adult novels was In the Dark Spaces, by Cally Black. This novel focuses on Tamara, a fourteen-year-old orphan whose parents died of a plague, and she must be taken aboard a space freighter with her aunt, where she is not allowed. The novels main plot explores aliens and myths, that represent the bridging of cultures and acceptance of differences. Although the novel explores dark themes such as torture and extreme survival conditions, the ending celebrates differences, and becomes a story of loyalty, truth, and kindness (Fitzgerald, 2018).

While all of these novels explore different problems, characters, settings, and many other aspects of a young adult novel, they all have themes surrounding being kind to one another and acceptance. The winner’s chosen represent a diverse collection of Australian young adult novels that explore various themes of adolescent lives, while keeping a consistent theme of generosity, and acceptance.

Works Cited
2018 Book of the Year Award Winners, The Children’s Book Council of Australia. (2018). Retrieved from 2018_final_no embargo.pdf.

Archbold, Charlie (2018). Mallee boys. Sydney, N.S.W.: Read How You Want.

Coates, Bronte (2017, August 21). Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell & Fiona Wood. Retrieved from

Fitzgerald, Elizabeth (2018, April 25). Book Review: In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black. Retrieved from

Sidekick, by Adeline Radloff: Book Review


The young adult novel Sidekick, by Adeline Radloff, is a somewhat stereotypical superhero story, with seventeen-year-old Katie Holmes (not that Katie Holmes, as she feels the need to mention throughout the book) and her journey in finding her own identity. The story is set in Cape Town, South Africa, a place she loves and a place Finn, another main character in the book, barely ever leaves. Finn is a well-loved figure within Cape Town and a rich, handsome, and mysterious man that has a complicated relationship with Katie and her mother. Although we do not ever find out Katie’s mother’s true relationship with Finn, her and her mother both seem somewhat romantically involved with Finn, which gets quite odd at times. Also, although we never meet him, another character includes Simon. An older man, that mentored Finn and Katie, and who had just died before the story starts. Other characters include Mandi, Katie’s best friend, who becomes a large character when she is kidnapped along with multiple other children by Dr. Bowers, a therapist who takes children off the hands of parents whom don’t want them, and either extracts their hormones for an “unaging” medication, or sells them to the highest bidder. All of this conflict is also met with Katie’s relationship and behavioral problems, in the past and throughout the story. After beating up her first boyfriend, whom she thought was going to assault her while he was only trying to throw her a surprise birthday party, Katie is later met with an actual attempt of sexual assault, when she is drugged and assaulted by her current boyfriend, Daniel, and his friends, Willem and Jamal.

Although all of this conflict seems unmanageable for a teenage girl, most of the action comes into the novel with the fact that Finn has the ability to freeze time, and while the rest of the people in the world are frozen still, Katie can also roam freely when time is frozen in what they call “untime.” The main plot goes through various conflicts surrounding the different enemies including Daniel, Jamal, Willem, and Dr. Bowers, along with the various smaller characters that cause either psychological or physical pain on Katie.

Although I may not be reading into the specific’s in detail enough, I was not a huge fan of how in depth and dense some of the rules the characters have to follow throughout the novel, and seem to come up out of nowhere. Along with that, many of the details about Finn and Katie seem irrelevant to the main conflict that they solve in the end, saving Mandi after she is kidnapped by Dr. Bowers, and almost sold to the highest bidder. For example, it comes up that Finn cannot be too far away from Table Mountain or else he will exhibit serious physical illness and eventually die (Radloff, Chapter 8). Table Mountain is a national landmark in Cape Town that seems to be significant in the beginning of the novel, however is not mentioned ever again after chapter 8. Also, the fact that Finn cannot be too far away from Table Mountain causes barely any conflict that contributes to any substantive meaning to the plot, and never has a reasonable explanation for why he cannot be too far away from the mountain. Altogether, this is just one of many odd details riddled throughout the novel that is not explained, or barely referenced.

Many details of the novel are not consistent throughout the plot, however there are aspects to it that I could find beneficial to a young adult reader, specifically in the target age ranges that are listed by the author. Although many young adult novels can be enjoyed by people of many ages, the plot of this novel was much too predictable and simple for me to enjoy on a personal level, and I would assume it would be for many adult readers. Many aspects of Katie’s life could be relatable for young readers, especially for adopted children and children with parents a different race than themselves. Although much conflict does not come up with the fact that Katie is white, being raised by a black mom, she does feel like a loner, saying “I think I’m the only white kid in this country who’s been adopted by a black woman” (Radoloff, Chapter 5). Katie often secludes herself from her peers, thinking that they do not want her around, and in turn, many, such as her school friend Lelicia, think that Katie is stuck up and thinks she’s better than everyone around her. As a quiet person myself, I can see that students that are found to be stuck up based on the fact that they do not talk very often is something that many quiet students can relate to.

Another aspect of the novel that I could see being beneficial to the young reader, is the introduction to the various parts of South African culture that are referenced at different points in the plot. Although it is much less prevalent than I thought it would be when reading the summary, Katie talks about a few Landmarks and well-known individuals in South Africa. Besides the references to Table Mountain, one of my favorite references was when Katie compared a hotel receptionist to Khanyi Mbau, a popular actress in South Africa, and then compared her to Paris Hilton (Radloff, Chapter 13). The cultural references that I noticed in the novel seemed culturally accurate, and relevant to young adults that this book would be recommended for.

Although, in my opinion, many aspects of the main plot and conflict seemed underdeveloped and lacked substance, there are positives to this novel that I could see beneficial to a young adult reader. Along with the relevant teenage problems that Katie goes through and the somewhat intriguing story lines, the cultural aspects of the novel allow the reader to have a more diverse reading experience which my spark their interest in topics they never knew existed before.

Works Cited
Radloff, Adeline, (2010). Sidekick. South Africa: Tafelberg Publishers.

Blog post: Writing about sex in Australian YA literature

In Erin Farrow’s “Honest and subtle: writing about sex in young adult literature,” it is said that writers should include sexual content in young adult literature, not because it will increase the selling rate, but simply because it is a normal part of adolescent life. Sex is a very controversial topic when it comes to teens and young adults, which is why authors have such a difficult time writing about it with confidence. Farrow states, “any content discussed in young adult literature… needs to be warranted. Sex scenes should only be included if they progress the plot or befit characterization” (1). This is because throwing a random sex scene into the novel because it might increase sales is usually easily detected and will be rejected. Authors should write about sex in a subtle way to enhance the reader experience and should not glorify sex the way movies do. Farrow gives examples from three different novels that all give a description in a different way. First, Farrow includes the novel Nona & Me by Clare Atkins. In the excerpt provided, the character suggests the action of sex with a bob of the head, not needing to say the words because the reader understands with the context around it. Next, Farrow includes the novel On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. In this excerpt, the experience is showing the pain of first time sex by explaining “Everything hurts.” Lastly, Farrow includes John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Green takes a different approach by describing the awkwardness of first time sex and the character’s surprise to find it was opposite of the imagined experience (1).

New Zealand has put a restriction on novels that include sexual content and have banned many from even being sold. Michelle Smith discusses the reasons for banning novels for young adults in “Sex and other reasons why we ban books for young people.” “Books for young readers are often challenged or banned because they conflict with adult perceptions of childhood innocence” (2). This makes a lot of sense. When adults tend to think of teens, they think of people who shouldn’t even have heard the term “sex,” let alone experience it. Books for young adults are often judged by adults with adult level thinking, rather than adults trying to experience the book from the young reader’s perspective. One example of an Australian novel being banned is Into the River by Bruce Dawes. Into the River includes sexual content, adult language, drug use and underage drinking. This was the main reason for the ban; however, after reconsideration, the ban was lifted due to the “useful social purpose… [the book] was likely to educate and inform young adults of the potentially negative consequences…” (2)  associated with these topics.

Authors should utilize young adult literature to educate young readers on subjects as controversial as sex. These authors may need to practice writing subtle descriptions of sexual encounters; however, novels can be a great way to help young adults learn and explore the nature of sex without having to make the mistakes for themselves.

Works Cited

  1. Farrow, Erin. “Honest and subtle: writing about sex in young adult literature.” The Conversation, 25 September 2015.
  2. Smith, Michelle. “Sex and other reasons why we ban books for young people.” The Conversation, 14 September 2015.